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Transcript of Frankenstein's "Science"
Even at a young age, Frankenstein felt “The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember” (Shelley 22).
He was born with an interest in science. The scientists he came to know so well were Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Peracelsus. No one bothered to inform him that their “science” was practically silly to Frankenstein's modern-day science. As Frankenstein continued learning more from these alchemists, his own beliefs in science were shaped and formed.
Agrippa was an alchemist with a large imagination. He was the best representative but often disrespected for his esoteric and occult writings. During the Renaissance he was looked down upon for thinking of magic as “the absolute perfection for the most noble philosophy” (“Heinrich Cornelius...”).
Cornelius was always in conflict with the Church. He was accused of claiming to have more knowledge than he actually possesses and of being a demonic magician. In reality, Agrippa just wanted to convince the entire population that magic was beneficial to society, not threatening.
Agrippa spent his entire life trying to explain that magic was not affiliated with sorcery or demons, but based on psychic abilities and self-talent. To break it down for everyone, Agrippa split his philosophy into three sections: the elementary, celestial, and the intellectual. The elementary section refers to the material world of earth's natural elements. The celestial section focuses on the magic properties of science and mathematics. The intellectual section deals with spiritual communication.
Cornelius Agrippa is still known today for his philosophy and discoveries that made it easier on modern-day scientists to make their inquiries.
Albertus Magnus, well-known as Albert the Great. He spent the majority of his life paraphrasing “The Philosopher,” also known as Aristotle. His intellectual imagination was the most outstanding characteristic about him. He also wrote commentaries in the Bible and other historical works of the 13th century.
Albert the Great had many interests. These interests led him to make contributions in the areas of logic, psychology, metaphysics, meteorology, mineralogy, and zoology. Albertus also spent his time explaining ethics, which focused on his definition of human freedom.
A difference between Albert the Great and other philosophers of the Middle Ages was that Albertus was a Christian. Therefore, his ideas were focused on the fundamentals of the Christian religion. Albertus thought the core of the soul was the human intellect. He thought “Having been created in the image and likeness of God it not only governs the body, as God governs the universe, but it is responsible for the very existence of the body, as God is the creator of the world. And just as God transcends his creation, so does the human soul transcend the body in its interests. It is capable of operating in complete independence of corporeal functions” (Führer).
Paracelsus was an alchemist of the 16th century with strange ideas and some historians give him credit for jumping off modern-day science. Paracelsus' main concentrations were on chemistry and anatomy. While he believed in magic, he was also like Albert the Great in his Christian views. Overall, Paracelsus was unique because for his information, he relied on actions and discoveries he could take responsibility for, rather than text books or findings from other philosophers.
One of Paracelsus' strange beliefs was the idea of signatures, which meant that “a plant could cure the body part it vaguely resembled” (Scott).
One thing Paracelsus contributed to society was healing people with chemical medicines. The main medicines he used, unfortunately, were mercury, antimony, and sulfuric acid. On a positive note, Paracelsus realized that the body does a good job of healing itself without using the common tactic of putting egg shells in the wound.
As a chemist, Paracelsus believed that all substances were made from Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt. He discovered nitrogen and hydrogen. He founded chemical therapy, chemical urinalysis, and the theory of biochemical digestion.
Influence to Frankenstein
Victor Frankenstein discovered Cornelius Agrippa first when he got a hold of one of his books. The fact that Frankenstein's father glanced over the book and said it was nonsense gave Frankenstein a deeper motivation to continue in his research on the alchemists. Agrippa influenced Frankenstein later on in his experiment because Frankenstein abides by his alchemist and supernatural beliefs. Frankenstein creates his monster by changing death into life, which represents Agrippa's belief in magic. In addition, Agrippa stated that only the truly talented could successfully perform experiments like the one Frankenstein completed. Frankenstein thought his experiment was beyond anyone's understanding except his own. The same thing was thought by Agrippa when he was alive.
The second grand philosopher of his time that inspired Frankenstein was Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great. Frankenstein showed his knowledge acquired from Albertus by the lack of morals he had when creating his monster. When Frankenstein was in preparation for his experiment, he gathered parts of dead bodies without giving a single thought to the violations he was doing against the dead humans. The fact that Frankenstein did that proves that he agreed with Albertus' perspective on ethics.
Last but not least, the scientist Frankenstein had most in common with was Paracelsus. Ironically, they both shared the main interests of chemistry and anatomy. Furthermore, Frankenstein learned of the sublime nature similarly to Paracelsus. They were both enlightened by experiencing the nature of experiments themselves than going by what other people expressed.
Führer, Marcus. “Albert the Great.” Stanforduniversity.edu. Stanford University, 20 Mar. 2006. Web. 23 Aug. 2013.
“Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim.” Deepspirits.com. Deep Spirits, 2013. Web. 23 Aug. 2013.
Scott, Michon. “Paracelsus.” Strangescience.net. N.p., 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 23 Aug. 2013.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York City: Bantam Dell Books, 2003. Print.